Those of you who are gardeners are probably going to find this amusing, but I had no decent zinnias last year. (It wasn’t entirely my fault, because some pesky creature kept mowing them down as soon as they were ready to bloom.) It was pretty frustrating, because I hosted Son #1′s engagement party at my house late in the summer and I had wanted everything to be just so. It was instead a lesson in acceptance.
This year, though, the pesky creature has moved on (or the bobcats or the owls or the hawks have helped it move on), and my zinnia crop looks very promising. I was so thrilled to see the first one open that I snipped it to include in this summer bouquet. As I was cutting it I thought, “I only have one, but I’ll make it the focal point of the arrangement.” Then I remembered Design! by Steve Aimone, a great book we did in 2004 that’s a guide to design basics for artists and crafters, and a blog entry was born.
Steve, a wonderful artist and art educator, defines the focal point as the place of primary emphasis in the design, the area in the composition that exerts the most pressure. It’s the spot that draws the eye, and also serves as the place that the eye can come back to rest after experiencing the totality of the design. I looked over the chapter on focal emphasis, and I found that a few of my photos illustrate some interesting principles from the book on planning a focal point. (There are several fun exercises in the book about determining a design focus, too.)
Just as I wanted the year’s first zinnia to be the focal point of my bouquet, I also played around with it as the focal point of the photos. Some shots achieve this more effectively than others, as I think you’ll see. I knew from my photography classes years ago that off-center compositions are more visually interesting, but I didn’t remember much else about effective design. Maybe my little flower exploration will help you the next time you’re planning a project—any project, a collage, a quilt, or what-have-you—and want to use an off-center focus point.